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Camp Lejeune's Statement

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Here is a copy of the statement released by Camp Lejeune concerning the murder of Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach. OPENING STATEMENT Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, my name is Lieutenant Colonel Curtis Hill and I?m the public affairs officer for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, or II MEF as we refer to it, here at Camp Lejeune. I?m joined here by Colonel Gary Sokoloski, the Staff Judge Advocate for II MEF, and Special Agent in Charge Paul Ciccarelli from the Camp Lejeune field office of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. First, on behalf of the Commanding General of II Marine Expeditionary Force, we wish to offer our deepest sympathy and our heartfelt sorrow to the Lauterbach family and their friends for the loss of their daughter, Maria, and their grandchild. It is our hope that they will find strength during these tragic times. We, her Marine Corps family, miss her and we join the family in mourning her. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with them. Second, I want to thank you for your patience as we within II MEF and our subordinate command, 2d Marine Logistics Group, worked to collect information and conduct a review to determine what information was available to commanders and when that information was available in relation to the tragic events involving Lance Cpl Lauterbach and Cpl Laurean. Additionally, we collected information and reviewed actions taken as a result of information becoming available. We are now in a position to provide information to you that we are confident is accurate and will not adversely impact ongoing investigations or possible future judicial proceedings. I will provide you a statement that will, within the limitations of what I can provide, lay out a timeline for this tragic case. I?d ask that you hold questions till the end of the statement. At that time, I?ll open the floor for questions. I will begin with some background information on the two Marines: LCpl Maria Lauterbach was born in Orange City, Florida. Her home of record when she joined the Marine Corps in July of 2005 was Vandalia, Ohio. She graduated from Boot Camp in September of 2006 and was trained as a Personnel Clerk. This was her first duty station after completing her required training. She had not deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism. She was promoted to Lance Corporal on February 1st, 2007, and her record indicates she was a solid Marine. Cpl Cesar Laurean was born in Mexico and is a naturalized American citizen. His home of record when he joined the Marine Corps was Las Vegas, Nevada. He graduated from Boot Camp in December of 2004 and was trained as a Personnel Clerk. This was his first duty station after completing his required training. He had not deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism. He was meritoriously promoted to Corporal on September 2nd, 2006, and his record indicates he was a stellar Marine. On May 11th, 2007, LCpl Lauterbach confides in her Officer-in-Charge two incidents of a sexual nature with Cpl Laurean. After some initial discussions, the command?s Uniform Victim Advocate meets with LCpl Lauterbach and explains the Victim Advocate Program to her. The UVA takes LCpl Lauterbach to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service office aboard Camp Lejeune to file a formal complaint. LCpl Lauterbach reports to NCIS an alleged sexual encounter with Cpl Laurean on March 26, 2007, and a second encounter approximately two weeks later. LCpl Lauterbach alleged she had been raped by Cpl Laurean. The command?s UVA accompanies LCpl Lauterbach to the medical department for a medical exam. Due to the length of time that elapsed between the alleged assault and the complaint, a forensic examination, or rape kit, is not performed. However, a ?Well Woman? exam is performed to include a pregnancy test. The pregnancy test result is negative. NCIS opens a rape investigation. On May 12, 2007, the company commander of both LCpl Lauterbach and Cpl Laurean provides a verbal order to Cpl Laurean not to initiate any contact or communication with LCpl Lauterbach and stay a minimum of 1000 feet from her. Additionally, LCpl Lauterbach?s UVA accompanies her to the Family Service Center for victim counseling. Both individual and group counseling are offered to her. Also on this date, the regimental commander reassigned LCpl Lauterbach to a duty office building geographically separated from Cpl Laurean, basically across the base from each other. The commander deemed it appropriate to move LCpl Lauterbach as her new duty location co-located her with her Uniform Victim Advocate. At this point, there have been no charges preferred, the evidence did not contain elements of force or threats, and there were no indications Cpl Laurean was a flight risk. The regimental commander considered these factors and Cpl Laurean?s military character and decided pre-trial restraint was not appropriate. On May 18th, 2007, NCIS interviews Cpl Laurean and he denies any sexual contact with LCpl Lauterbach. On May 24, 2007, the company commander follows up the verbal order of May 12th, with a written Military Protective Order effective through June 24th. The MPO was established to preserve the integrity of the investigation and developing case, it was not based on any perceived threat towards LCpl Lauterbach. From June 19th through June 24th, LCpl Lauterbach takes annual leave to parents home in Ohio. Upon returning from leave, LCpl Lauterbach behaves normally and displays no anxieties or unusual behavior. On June 25th, 2007, the company commander re-issues a written Military Protective Order effective through September 24th. Again, the MPO is renewed to preserve the integrity of the investigation and developing case, it was not based on any perceived threat towards LCpl Lauterbach. Additionally, there is no indication LCpl Lauterbach and Cpl Laurean have been in contact in any way. On June 27th, 2007, LCpl Lauterbach is ill and seeks medical attention. She is administered a pregnancy test. The result of the test is positive with medical personnel estimating the conception date as 14 May 2007. LCpl Lauterbach?s UVA calls NCIS to report the pregnancy. LCpl Lauterbach goes to NCIS to make a statement regarding her pregnancy and belief that Cpl Laurean is the father as a result of the alleged rape. From July 11th through July 26th, Cpl Laurean takes annual leave. He returns as expected and behaves normally afterwards. During the summer months, both Marines perform their daily jobs; participated in two long liberty periods, Independence Day and Labor Day that both returned from on time, and there are no indications of contact between LCpl Lauterbach and Cpl Laurean. Additionally, the NCIS investigation continues. On September 17, 2007, LCpl Lauterbach requests permission from her command to move into off-base housing in order to prepare a home for her and her expected child. This is common practice for Marines who are about to go through a life changing event, for example a marriage or having a child. On September 20, 2007, the regimental commander issues a written Military Protective Order effective through December 23rd. The regimental commander issues this MPO because the company commander is on annual leave and unavailable. Again, the MPO is renewed to preserve the integrity of the investigation and developing case, it was not based on any perceived threat towards LCpl Lauterbach. Additionally, there is no indication LCpl Lauterbach and Cpl Laurean have been in contact in any way. From September 26th through October 2nd, LCpl Lauterbach takes annual leave. She returns as expected and no unusual behavior is observed. On October 18, 2007, NCIS recommends no disciplinary action be initiated on the alleged rape until forensic evidence DNA can be retrieved from the child. Cpl Laurean denied having any sexual contact with LCpl Lauterbach and this was believed to be significant evidence. On October 22, 2007, the regimental commander submits a request for legal services requesting prosecutors review the investigation and provide a recommended Course of Action with an eye towards an Article 32 investigation. An Article 32 investigation allows for witnesses to testify under oath and subject to cross examination. An accused is present and represented by counsel. On October 23rd, trial counsel discusses the case with the regimental commander. On October 31, 2007, LCpl Lauterbach?s request to move out of the barracks into off-base housing is approved. On November 5, 2007, LCpl Lauterbach moves into an off-base house, renting a room from Sgt Durham who is scheduled to deploy during late December and was looking for someone to rent his home while he was deployed. Additionally on this day, trial counsel re-interviews LCpl Lauterbach who readjusts her statement that her pregnancy is a result of the rape. However, she continues to maintain that she was raped by Cpl Laurean. Trial counsel continues to look at evidence and prepare recommendations for further actions to the regimental commander. NCIS continues to look for evidence to corroborate LCpl Lauterbach?s allegations. From November 4th through November 13th, Cpl Laurean takes annual leave to his home in Las Vegas. On November 26, 2007, LCpl Lauterbach attends a scheduled OB appointment at the Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital. At this point in the alleged rape investigation, the regimental commander and trial counsel continue to discuss the evidence and the possible charges, if any, to prefer against Cpl Laurean. The regimental commander has not made a decision regarding what charges, if any, to prefer against Cpl Laurean and has not consulted with his Staff Judge Advocate. Cpl Laurean has not been detailed government defense counsel and no Article 32 hearing is scheduled as Cpl Laurean has not been charged with any offenses. On Friday, December 14, 2007, LCpl Lauterbach reported to work as normal. The work day ended at 12 noon as the command was having a Christmas party. Attendance was not mandatory and LCpl Lauterbach elected not to attend. That morning Sgt Durham saw her car at the home when leaving for work. At this point, we?ll discuss a few things that occurred December 14th that the command did not know until sometime later. For example, when Sgt Durham arrives home from work, he finds a note left for him by LCpl Lauterbach stating, ?I could not take this Marine Corps life anymore. So I am going away. Sorry for the inconvenience. Maria.? Sgt Durham notices that some of her personal items are missing. She does not leave the house key behind. Sgt Durham calls LCpl Lauterbach?s sister concerning the note. Shortly after this conversation, LCpl Lauterbach?s Mother calls Sgt Durham. Sgt Durham text messages a junior member of LCpl Lauterbach?s work section indicating his belief she was going into an Unauthorized Absence status, commonly referred to as ?going UA.? There is an ATM withdrawal of $700 from LCpl Lauterbach?s account. Transaction occurs in Jacksonville. Video surveillance confirms LCpl Lauterbach makes the withdrawal. The ATM information is not provided to the command until January 9th. Please remember LCpl Lauterbach was at work on Friday, was not required to attend the Christmas party, and therefore was not required to be at work until Monday morning. On Saturday, December 15th, Greyhound bus records reflect a ticket is purchased in LCpl Lauterbach?s name for one way to El Paso, Texas departing that evening. Ticket is not redeemed. Command is not notified of this information until January 9th. On Monday, December 17, 2007, LCpl Lauterbach failed to report to work. Her leadership begins to inquire as to her whereabouts by calling her cell phone. Sgt Durham physically arrives at her work section and provides the note to her leadership. Sgt Durham also provides information that LCpl Lauterbach appears to have taken some clothing, personal hygiene items, and her car with her. The command takes the extraordinary step of sending representatives to her residence to check to see if she is there. They knock on the door of Sgt Durham?s residence with no response. LCpl Lauterbach?s vehicle is not there. LCpl Lauterbach is entered into the administrative system in an Unauthorized Absence status. There is an elevated concern for her welfare because of the advanced stage of pregnancy. The command requests permission to list LCpl Lauterbach as a deserter in order to release a DD553 to apprehend her. This was an extraordinary step taken in hope of having her returned so the command could ensure she was receiving the proper medical care. Basically, with a DD553, federal resources could be used to assist in locating her. On Tuesday, December 18, 2007, the section OIC calls LCpl Lauterbach?s Mother to notify her of her daughter?s absence. Mother states she spoke to Sgt Durham on December 14th, at which time he notified her of LCpl Lauterbach?s absence. Mother also states she last spoke to her daughter on December 14th. The section OIC asks Mother about LCpl Lauterbach?s whereabouts and possible reasons for leaving. Mother stated she didn?t know where she was and didn?t have reasons why she may have left. Mother files a Missing Persons Report locally in Ohio. Command receives information regarding the MPR on December 27th. Command determines LCpl Lauterbach has voluntarily placed herself in an Unauthorized Absence status. The determination is based on the note left behind and some personal items taken to include her car. On Wednesday, December 19th, 2007, Ohio authorities contacted local law enforcement authorities here in Onslow County about the Missing Persons Report. Onslow County Sheriff?s Office notifies the Naval Criminal Investigative Service of the MPR. The notification went to the Onslow County Sheriff?s Office as LCpl Lauterbach?s residence falls within County jurisdiction. The command is not notified of the MPR until December 27th. On Thursday, December 20th, 2007, Sgt Durham contacts section OIC informing him that he will be leaving on December 28th for training in California and that access to the residence would be difficult after that date. LCpl Lauterbach?s cell phone is found along Highway 24 in Jacksonville, NC. The phone was used to make several calls by stranded motorist, one of which was LCpl Lauterbach?s sister, who requests that the individual turn the phone into the police. The command is notified about the cell phone recovery and the circumstance surrounding the recovery on January 9th. On Friday, December 21st, 2007, the Christmas Holiday liberty period begins. On Monday, December 24th, 2007, an unidentified male withdraws $400 from Lauterbach?s account. Location is Western Blvd, Jacksonville. The command is notified on January 9th. On Wednesday, December 26th, 2007, LCpl Lauterbach does not attend a scheduled OB appointment at the Naval Hospital, Camp Lejeune. Command is not aware of this until January 9th. The Christmas Holiday liberty period ends at 6 o?clock in the evening. On Thursday, December 27th, 2007, LCpl Lauterbach?s leadership contact mother for any updates she may have on her daughter?s whereabouts. Mother states she has had no contact with her daughter since December 14th. Mother also states that she has filed a Missing Person Report (MPR) with Onslow County Sheriff?s Office. Onslow County Sheriff?s Office contacts LCpl Lauterbach?s OIC and confirms that the MPR exists. Detective also asks for LCpl Lauterbach?s vehicle description and asks whether her OIC believed she left of her own free will. This was the command?s first contact with OCSD concerning LCpl Lauterbach. Command is notified by NCIS that authorities from Vandalia, OH contacted Onslow County Sheriff?s Office concerning MPR that was originally filed by mother in Ohio. On December 28, 2007, as Sgt Durham is about to depart for training in California, and with Sgt Durham?s permission, the command inventories and boxes LCpl Lauterbach?s personal belongings at the residence in order to secure her property. The New Year?s Holiday liberty period begins at noon. On Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008, the New Year?s Holiday liberty period expires at 6 o?clock in the evening. On Thursday, January 3rd, 2008, the command turns in LCpl Lauterbach?s inventoried gear to the supply warehouse. Supply re-inventories the gear and reports no discrepancies from the original inventory sheets. On January 4th, 2008, the required 10-day letter is sent to LCpl Lauterbach?s family. The letter is delayed a few days due to the holiday period; however, the command has been in previous contact with LCpl Lauterbach's mother. LCpl Lauterbach?s Mother contacts Company 1stSgt. The section OIC is made aware of the phone call to the Company 1stSgt and calls Mrs. Lauterbach. Mother asks if the command has done anything additional to find LCpl Lauterbach. According to the section OIC, the mother?s concern had clearly intensified. Mother states to the Section OIC that she is coming to Camp Lejeune on Monday, January 7th, to meet with the command and will be bringing her brother. The section OIC plans to meet her at the gate at 9:45 on Monday, January 7th, to assist her with her visit. Section OIC plans to escort her to the workspaces to meet with the leadership. The mother gives no indication during this phone call that outside law enforcement would be involved or that she thought foul play was the reason for her daughter?s absence. NCIS receives a call from LCpl Lauterbach?s Mother. NCIS receives specifics from LCpl Lauterbach?s Mother they previously did not have. Examples include specifics of LCpl Lauterbach?s cell phone recovery. At this point, the commander has no reason to believe LCpl Lauterbach is not voluntarily UA. There is no evidence she has been the victim of foul play, and though her mother?s concern has intensified, there is still no indication that something has happened to LCpl Lauterbach. The command still has not received any information concerning recovery of her cell phone, or of the suspicious activity on her ATM account. Cpl Laurean has not been implicated in the absence in any way. On Monday, January 7, 2008, LCpl Lauterbach?s mother and uncle arrive at Camp Lejeune earlier than expected accompanied by an Onslow County Sheriff?s Office Detective and ask for a meeting with NCIS and the command. Regimental legal officer attends the meeting once the request was sent via the proper protocol. This is the first indication to the command that foul play may be suspected in her absence. During the afternoon, LCpl Lauterbach?s section SNCOIC calls the Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital to ask if she had attended her December 26th OB appointment. Through either a mistake or confusion, the SNCOIC is told she had attended the appointment. The correct information regarding her attendance at the November 26th appointment and failure to attend the December 26th appointment was not received until January 9th. On Tuesday, January 8, 2008, the company commander re-issues a written Military Protective Order effective through March 28th. There was a lapse in MPO coverage between December 24th and January 7th due to an administrative oversight during the holiday period. At one o?clock, Cpl Laurean?s OIC accompanies Cpl Laurean to NCIS to speak with Onslow County Sheriff?s Office. He is questioned as a possible witness, not a suspect. He was not provided his Miranda warnings. There?s no information provided to the command to implicate Cpl Laurean in LCpl Lauterbach?s absence. Cpl Laurean requests time during the workday to meet with his civilian attorneys at their office. His OIC approves the request. On Wednesday, January 9, 2008, Cpl Laurean is out of the office all day with his civilian attorneys but maintains phone contact with OIC. Cpl Laurean requests additional time off to meet with his civilian attorneys. His OIC approves the request. Evidence previously not provided to the command is available. However, most of this evidence still points to LCpl Lauterbach going UA. Cpl Laurean?s requests to meet with his lawyers does not raise concerns as he is also under investigation for the alleged rape. Additionally, Cpl Laurean maintains contact with his OIC throughout the day by phone. There has been no request from law enforcement agencies to detain or otherwise restrict Cpl Laurean. As the situation developed and information was provided by investigators, all indications led the command to believe LCpl Lauterbach had voluntarily placed herself in an unauthorized absence status. On Thursday, January 10th, 2008, LCpl Lauterbach?s personal possessions are turned over to NCIS for delivery to Onslow County Sheriff?s Office. Cpl Laurean is out of his work section all day but maintains phone contact with his OIC throughout the day. That evening, Cpl Laurean informs his OIC of a possible appointment with his attorneys on Friday morning. Cpl Laurean is directed to call at 7:30 in the morning to confirm the appointment or to be at his work space at 7:30 if he does not have an appointment.At two o?clock, the Onslow County Sheriff holds a press conference where he, the head of the lead investigating agency, implies anticipation of a positive outcome to the case. Additionally, he makes an on-camera plea for LCpl Lauterbach to return. The Onslow County Sheriff names Sgt Durham as a ?person of interest? and tells the media the Marine Corps is returning him from California to Onslow County so he can interview Sgt Durham. On Friday, January 11, 2008, Cpl Laurean fails to report to work and fails to call his OIC. His section makes several attempts to contact him by phone with no response. Cpl Laurean is reported UA. The morning reports in the media indicate there will be an announcement of a positive break in the case at a noon press conference. The command receives information regarding a note in the possession of Cpl Laurean?s spouse that will have a significant bearing on the case. The announcement is made that LCpl Lauterbach is believed to be dead and buried in Onslow County. Cpl Laurean is named a ?person of interest? and the releasable information on Cpl Laurean is provided to the media to include a photograph. At no point prior to Friday morning when information about the note was provided by Cpl Laurean?s spouse, did the regimental commander or the NCIS investigators feel that LCpl Lauterbach was anything other than UA or have information that Cpl Laurean was involved in LCpl Lauterbach?s absence in any way. I?d like to discuss briefly some specific information received by the command and when it was received: ? Information regarding a $700 ATM withdrawal made on December 14th was provided to the command on January 9th. ? Information regarding the purchase of the Greyhound bus ticket to El Paso on December 15th was provided to the command on January 9th. ? Information regarding LCpl Lauterbach?s cell phone being recovered and the circumstances of the recovery was provided to the command on January 9th. ? Information regarding an unidentified male withdrawing $400 from LCpl Lauterbach?s account on December 24th is provided on January 9th. ? Information regarding LCpl Lauterbach?s vehicle being found near the Greyhound bus station in Jacksonville on January 7th was provided on January 9th. At this point, Col Gary Sokoloski will provide a message from LtGen Keith Stalder, the commanding general of II Marine Expeditionary Force: Ladies and Gentlemen, LtGen Stalder, Commanding General of II Marine Expeditionary Forces is not in the State today. ?I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Maria Lauterbach's family and friends. The loss of any Marine or sailor in combat, or garrison, is tragic and effects us all deeply ? it effects members of this command, the Marine Corps Base, and our friends in the local civilian community ? we all grieve. I am satisfied with the actions of the commanders in this case. We followed applicable regulations and procedures with the information available to the commander. I am impressed with the level of cooperation between our County neighbors, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the flow of information during this period of intensive investigative activity. As I indicated to Sheriff Brown this past Sunday evening, I continue to pledge the MEF?s full cooperation with Onslow County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney, Mr. Dewey Hudson. Thank you for your attendance.?

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